Stormwater & Sewer Management

Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) and Stormwater Management

The mission of Marion’s Stormwater Management program is to develop, implement, operate and equitably fund the acquisition, construction, operation, maintenance and regulation of stormwater collection and drainage systems and activities within the city including improvements to the city’s existing combined sewers.

The program shall safely and efficiently control stormwater run-off, enhance public health and safety, protect lives and property, facilitate mobility and enable access to homes and businesses throughout the community during storms. The program shall also control the discharge of pollutants contained in stormwater to receiving waters in order to enhance the natural resources of the community.

The Mississinewa River and its tributaries are one of Marion’s most valuable resources. The protection and enhancement of this resource improves the quality of life for Marion citizens and assists in attracting new businesses, jobs, and residents to our community.


Wet Weather Challenges

The City of Marion faces two types of problems caused by rain events and snow melt:

  • Surface water drainage problem areas are defined as areas where water from rainstorms frequently impedes mobility and limits access to homes and businesses throughout the community.
  • Surface water quality problems in the Marion area are caused by a combination of point and non-point sources of pollution. This combination of pollutant sources can contribute to a decrease in water quality in Marion’s waterways during rain events and snow melt.
  • In many cases these two problems are interrelated and long-term solutions require strategic planning to avoid future complications, but for the purposes of this discussion the two classes of problems will be looked at separately.

Surface Water Drainage (read more)

The City of Marion maintains approximately 500 miles of sanitary sewer, combined sewer and separated storm sewer lines. Maintenance activities include the cleaning of catch basins and sewer lines and the replacement of damaged storm water collection structures and sewer pipes. The City continually works to identify and resolve problem surface water drainage areas. The projects implemented to address these areas vary widely in size and scope. In some cases, drainage problems can be resolved by simply clearing an obstruction in a catch basin or sewer line, but in others, the problem is more complex and requires the design and construction of new infrastructure. Thorough planning is required in these situations to ensure that the proposed project does not adversely impact other properties or the water quality of the receiving streams. 

Surface Water Quality (read more)

The State of Indiana has water quality standards that all waters of the state are required to meet. The Indiana Water Quality Standards rule is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the state.” 

To achieve this goal, there are specific limits for various pollutants outlined in the rule. City, county, and state government agencies collect samples from streams, rivers, and lakes throughout the state to determine if the water quality standards are being met. 

Over the past ten to fifteen years a large number of samples have been collected from the Mississinewa River and its tributaries in the Grant County area in order to determine compliance with Indiana Water Quality Standards. These samples were collected and analyzed by numerous government agencies and private organizations. A detailed analysis of all available samples from the past 10 years indicates that E. coli is the only pollutant found in excess of the water quality standards in a significant number of the samples. E. coli is present in the intestinal tracts of all warm-blooded animals and is used to indicate the presence of fecal matter in water. It is true that some types of E. coli can make you sick, but fecal matter can also contain an array of other bacteria and viruses causing various illnesses. The analysis of the available data indicates that a high percentage of the samples collected from the Mississinewa River in the Grant County area after rain events contain E. coli in amounts exceeding the water quality standards. E. coli amounts in excess of the water quality standard were also observed in samples collected during dry weather periods. This leads to the conclusion that E. coli is entering the Mississinewa River through a number of different sources. 

Possible Sources of E. coli in the Mississinewa River (read more)

Upstream sources:

This includes all of the sources that contribute to the concentration of E. coli present in the Mississinewa River when it enters the Marion area from the upstream direction. Initial findings indicate that this source represents a significant contribution to the total E. coli pollutant load observed in the Marion area. 

Wastewater treatment plants:

When the weather is dry, the City of Marion Wastewater Treatment Plant does an excellent job of treating all of Marion’s sanitary sewage. But during storms or snowmelt events, the amount of combined sewage in the sewer system can exceed the treatment capacity of the wastewater treatment plant. When this occurs, combined sewage is discharged into the Mississinewa River from outfalls specified in Marion’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. The City is working to address this issue through the Combined Sewer System Long Term Control Plan. 

Combined Sewer Overflows:

Combined sewers are designed to carry both sanitary sewage and rainwater in the same pipes. CSOs discharge when the volume of rainwater entering the combined sewer system causes the combination of sanitary sewage and rainwater in the system to exceed the capacity of the pipes that carry waste to the wastewater treatment plant. The points in the combined sewer system designed to relieve this excess capacity are CSO discharge points. During significant rain events, combined sanitary sewage and rainwater is discharged into the Mississinewa River at these locations. The City is currently working to determine the contribution to the total E. coli load from CSO discharges, while developing a Combined Sewer System Long Term Control Plan to address the CSO issue. 

Urban Stormwater:

Urban stormwater includes run-off from streets, parking lots, rooftops, and lawns that enters the stormwater collection system through catch basins placed along city streets. The concentrations of E. coli in urban stormwater are lower than some other sources, but it is still a potentially significant source because of the large volume of stormwater that enters the Mississinewa River when it rains. 

Failing Septic Systems:

Several thousand homes are serviced by septic systems in Grant County. When these systems fail to operate properly, untreated sewage can enter drainage tiles, the groundwater supply, or percolate to the surface and eventually enter streams that discharge into the Mississinewa River. The amount of E. coli contributed from failing septic systems is difficult to quantify. The City continues to extend sewer service to areas served by septic systems when it is appropriate, and the Grant County Health Department diligently investigates citizen concerns regarding failing septic systems. It is essential to properly maintain your septic system to ensure proper operation. 


Combined Sewer Overflow

The Mississinewa River is a beautiful waterway and a wonderful resource for the citizens of Marion. The river provides a place to enjoy a wide range of recreational activities including fishing, canoeing, and observing wildlife. We must all work together to protect and enhance this resource for Marion’s citizens and future generations.

Protecting water quality and natural habitat in the Mississinewa River and its tributaries starts with looking at the sources of stream pollution. Marion’s combined sewer overflows (CSOs) are one of many sources of pollution contributing to the water quality of the Mississinewa River. 

What is a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO)?

To understand combined sewer overflows, it is important to understand what a combined sewer system is. Over 100 years ago, cities recognized the need to construct sewers to carry sewage away from homes and businesses to protect public health. Originally, sewers were designed to carry both sewage and storm water directly to streams and rivers. The natural biological processes in streams and rivers broke down the organic waste from the sewage. This system was adequate until the growing population created too much waste for the river to clean up naturally. Today, scientists understand that the bacteria and viruses contained within combined sewage can create a potential health hazard when discharged into our waterways.

Currently the combined sewer system carries sewage from our homes and businesses to the Marion wastewater treatment plant instead of the river. However, when it rains or there is a large amount of snow melt, excess water that enters the combined sewer system through catch basins and other drainage structures can exceed the capacity of the combined sewer system and wastewater treatment plant. When this occurs, the excess water is discharged into the Mississinewa River through CSO outfall structures.

What impacts do CSOs have on water quality?

Sewage, household, automobile, and other waste flowing into rivers and streams can cause:

A health hazard for people — combined sewage may contain harmful bacteria and viruses such as E. coli that can make people sick. A few things you can do to protect yourself and your family: (read more)

  • People should avoid contact with all urban streams in the Marion area during, and for at least 72 hours after, a rain event or a period of rapid snowmelt.
  • Parents should teach children to never play in or near a stream or river without adult supervision.
  • Everyone should thoroughly wash their hands and face after contact with any stream, river, or lake.
  • If you wade in or fall into a waterway, you should take a bath or shower when you return home.

Damage to habitat and aquatic life — Organic waste, like sewage, can contribute to impaired water quality by causing dissolved oxygen levels in our streams to fall. Other chemicals that build up on streets and rooftops can damage the habitat of different kinds of aquatic life.

A nuisance to people near the river — Sewage and trash from CSOs can look and smell bad, driving people away from the area and lowering the quality of life for all of Marion’s citizens.


What is being done about Marion’s CSOs?

The City of Marion is working to solve the problems caused by CSOs. The City’s sewer system maintenance program now virtually eliminates all dry-weather overflow. Existing sewer systems and wastewater treatment facilities are being used more efficiently and effectively to reduce overflows.

The City of Marion is developing a long-term plan that includes goals for CSOs, control measure options, and their corresponding costs and effectiveness. Addressing CSOs can be expensive, so we must consider our options carefully and find the most cost-effective use for available resources.

You can be part of the solution. By understanding our systems, and by keeping informed along the way, you can help your government make the best decisions on this serious and complex issue. Your participation is vital to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy clean waterways.


CSO Public Notification

The City of Marion has a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Notification Program designed to educate and notify the public about the city’s combined sewer system. The program uses a CSO information line, general information website, and signs posted on waterways at various locations throughout the city to provide information to interested citizens. Learn more: www​.mar​i​onu​til​i​ties​.com


Downspout Disconnection

In an effort to reduce the amount of storm water that enters Marion’s sewer system when it rains, the city has a downspout disconnection program. In past years, there have been organized initiatives that verified the disconnection of downspouts and sump pumps from the sewer system. This phase of the program asks Marion’s citizens to continue to partner with the city to improve water quality, protect our homes from flooding, and reduce operational costs.

Rainwater that enters the city’s sanitary and combined sewer system takes up valuable capacity in the sewer lines. When storm water rapidly enters the combined sewers, the system can become overloaded resulting in the discharge of combined sewage to the Mississinewa River. Excessive amounts of storm water entering the city sewer system can also result in flooding of streets and homes.

Why should I disconnect? (read more)

Combined sewer overflows discharge when the volume of rainwater or snow melt entering the combined sewer system causes the combination of sanitary sewage and rainwater in the system to exceed the capacity of the pipes that carry waste to the wastewater treatment plant.

The points in the combined sewer system designed to relieve this excess capacity are CSO discharge points. During significant rain events, combined sanitary sewage and rainwater is discharged to the Mississinewa River at these locations.

By eliminating as many sources of inflow as possible, you are helping to protect the water quality of the Mississinewa River and protecting your family and property from possible sewer backups and overflows. Also, the reduction of stormwater into the sewer collection system results in decreased maintenance and operational cost for the City of Marion.

When downspouts and sump pumps are disconnected from the sewer, both the amount of stormwater and rate that stormwater enters the sewer system are reduced. Part of the water from these disconnections will infiltrate into the ground and never enter the sewer system. The part of the water that does run off of our yards and enters the sewer system through a catch basin does so much slower than water from a direct connection. The reduction in stormwater volume, combined with the delayed entry of stormwater into the sewer system, assists in reducing the number of times the sewer system becomes overloaded.

Please help us to keep our waterways clean, protect our homes, and reduce cost.


Storm Water Pollution Control

Rainwater that falls on city streets, parking lots, rooftops, industrial properties and lawns often becomes polluted by automotive fluids, industrial chemicals, and fertilizers before it enters the city’s combined and separate storm sewer systems through catch basins and other drainage structures.

Polluted stormwater runoff is then carried through the city’s storm sewer systems and eventually discharged into our local rivers and streams without receiving any treatment. These pollutants can adversely affect water quality in local waterways, thereby creating a potential health hazard and degrading aquatic life habitat. The City of Marion continually works to reduce the quantity of pollutants entering area waterways contained in polluted stormwater runoff.

The Federal Clean Water Act and State of Indiana Administrative Code requires the City of Marion to develop and implement a stormwater management program that implements six classes of control measures to address polluted stormwater runoff. The following provides a brief summary of each of the required control measures. The City is currently implementing a wide range of projects to meet all regulatory requirements. (read more)

Public Education and Outreach

This includes distributing educational materials and performing outreach to inform citizens about the impacts polluted storm water runoff discharges can have on water quality.

Public Participation and Involvement

Providing opportunities for citizens to participate in program development and implementation, including effectively publicizing public hearings and/​or encouraging citizen representatives on a storm water management committee.

Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination

Developing and implementing a plan to detect and eliminate illicit discharges to the storm sewer system (includes developing a system map and informing the community about hazards associated with illegal discharges and improper disposal of waste).

Construction Site Runoff Control

Developing, implementing, and enforcing an erosion and sediment control program for construction activities that disturb one or more acres of land.

Post Construction Runoff Control

Developing, implementing, and enforcing a program to address discharges of post-construction storm water runoff from new development and redevelopment areas. Applicable controls could include preventative actions such as protecting vulnerable areas (i.e. wetlands) or the use of structural BMPs such as grassed swales or buffer strips.

Pollution Prevention Good Housekeeping

Developing and implementing a program with the goal of preventing or reducing pollutant runoff from municipal operations. The program must include municipal staff training on pollution prevention measures and techniques (e.g.: regular street sweeping, reduction in the use of pesticides or street salt, or frequent catch-basin cleaning).


How You Can Help

The following list is just a few of the things you can do to protect our waterways. (read more)

Get Involved

This is one of the most important things you can do to protect our streams, rivers and lakes. Make an effort to find out what is going on in your community regarding water quality issues. You can do this by attending public meetings, joining a local watershed organization or scheduling a time to meet with local officials. The City encourages you to ask questions when you see things going on you are curious about. 

Around the House

Disconnect and properly route downspouts at your homes and businesses. Downspouts connected to the sewer system can contribute to sewer back-ups and combined sewer overflows. For additional information, please refer to the Downspout Disconnection section.

Properly maintain your septic system. If you have a septic system at your home, it is important to ensure that it is functioning properly.

Dispose of household chemicals and pet waste properly. Dispose of your home chemicals such as paint, solvents, cleaning agents, and mercury properly. For information about how to dispose of these materials, contact the East Central Indiana Solid Waste District at 7656402535. Never pour any of these materials into a sewer or storm drain. You may put small amounts of pet waste in the trash, the toilet, or bury it.

Fix plumbing leaks and conserve water. A tiny leak can add up to a gallon in minutes. Saving water saves you money and puts less water in the sewer. Less water in the sewer makes it less likely to overflow in a storm.

Sweep up debris on sidewalks instead of washing it away with a garden hose. By volume, sediment is the largest pollutant entering the nation’s streams and rivers. The dirt and gravel that runs off of our sidewalks and streets has a negative impact on the water quality of our streams and rivers.

Your Car

Drive less. Take the bus, carpool, ride a bike, or plan your trips to be more efficient. You’ll save money on gasoline and reduce street pollution washing into our streams and rivers.

Dispose of your motor oil, antifreeze, batteries, and other waste products properly. There are currently numerous locations to recycle these materials. For information about how to dispose of these materials, contact the East Central Indiana Solid Waste District.

Keep your car tuned, and periodically check for fluid leaks. This keeps oil from leaking onto the ground and can increase gas mileage — saving you money and protecting the environment by reducing water and air pollution.

Wash your car or other outdoor equipment at a commercial carwash instead of at your home. The grease, oil and other chemicals that we wash off of these items can run off of our driveways and lawns and enter the storm sewer system and eventually discharge to local streams and rivers. Even the soaps we use to clean these items can cause problems for some aquatic life.

Use kitty litter or other absorbents to soak up spills. Never wash spills away with a garden hose. Pour kitty litter on oil leaks and other household chemical spills to soak them up.

Around the Yard

Use less lawn chemicals and always follow the label directions. Rain can wash away your fertilizers and pesticides, which is a big waste for you, and toxic for fish.

Clear street gutters and storm drains of trash, leaves and grass. Trash may clog the drains and cause your street to flood in a storm. Leaves and grass wash into our streams and rivers where they decay, reducing the oxygen in the water that fish need to survive. Trash and debris can also cause numerous problems for fish and other aquatic animals.

Compost leaves, branches, and grass clippings. Compost makes great mulch for your garden or flowerbed. Leave grass clippings on the lawn as you mow to return nutrients to your lawn.

Pick up trash and litter in your yard. Much of the trash in our yards and along roadways will eventually find its way to a stream or river. This not only causes a nuisance, but fish and some birds can become trapped in some types of trash, and can die.

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